The discovery of the Titanic wreckage is a moment in modern history which has fascinated the world for years. It was unearthed in 1985 during what was believed to be a scientific research project by oceanographer and former Navy commander Robert Ballard. The famous findings caught the eyes of almost every press office around the world, as well as peaking the intrigue of the general public. When interviewed about the expedition, Navy spokesman Captain Brent Baker famously told the New York Times that “there was nothing classified” and that the project was “simply to test if the oceanographic system worked.” All military involvement was denied.
A Clandestine Operation
This, however, has turned out to be a ruse. The events that transpired around the RMS Titanic’s discovery have now been declassified and Robert Ballard himself has officially revealed that the expedition was actually part of a secret US military mission to recover two sunken nuclear submarines. Now the material for an exhibition at The National Geographic Museum, the true Titanic discovery tale is available for the entire world to see.
The Perfect Cover
After a failed attempt in 1977, Dr Robert Ballard began to try and find the resources for the chance to begin a second search for the wreckage. Ballard was offered the necessary funding through the Navy, but there was a catch. He first had to explore two American nuclear submarines that sank in the ’60s; the USS Thresher and USS Scorpion.
Ronald Thunman, then deputy chief of naval operations for submarine warfare, has spoken to The National Geographic of when the oceanographer asked if he could simultaneously search for the Titanic debris; “I was a little short with him. The mission was to study the sunken warships…It was made clear that if time was left after his mission, Ballard could do whatever he wanted.” Explicit permission was never granted to search for the wreckage, however.
“We knew where the subs were…what they wanted me to do was go back and not have the Russians follow me, because we were interested in the nuclear weapons that were on the Scorpion and also what the nuclear reactors were doing to the environment.” Ballard explains when speaking to CNN. “They did not want the world to know (that), so I had to have a cover story.”
When the search for the Scorpion and Thresher was over, Robert’s team was left with a mere 12 days to find the Titanic. Found at a depth of more than 12,540 feet in the North Atlantic Ocean, the discovery became the perfect cover story to the true purpose of the team’s excursion.
A Bittersweet Discovery
It’s clear that the explorer-at-large’s feelings towards the poignant mission are multi-faceted and sensitive.
“I am always asked what it was like to discover the Titanic, but the answer is complex. As the leader of the expedition, I was thrilled to have accomplished our goal…As a human, I was saddened to see what happened to those who died there. As a naval officer on a top-secret mission, I was glad to see the public attention on the Titanic and not the Thresher and Scorpion.”
Despite the success of the cover-up, it has been hard to ignore the sorrow and significance of the wreckage that was found. “This story has many layers to it and has impacted so many lives in so many ways,” Ballard continues. “That is why I am committed to the preservation of these underwater memorials.”
The Home of the Titanic
Immerse yourself in the Titanic’s captivating history by visiting 30 James Street – home of the iconic ship. Here you can explore the stunning, sensitively restored White Star Headquarters which has been lovingly transformed into a luxurious hotel in Liverpool.
Call today on 0151 601 8801 or email email@example.com to arrange a break, meal, spa treatment or special event at 30 James Street – the home of RMS Titanic.